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5 Healthy Lunches to Bring to Work

Posted 9/8/2016 by UHBlog

If you want to be mentally sharp all afternoon, take a look at what's in your lunch box. We can help.

5 Healthy Lunches to Bring to Work

If you're usually tired between 2 and 4 p.m., it's time to rethink lunch, says registered dietitian nutritionist Heather Butscher, MS, RDN, LD.

“The goal of lunch is to make sure you have energy to make it through to dinner,” she says. “That's the purpose of any meal. It's to get energy.”

The right combination of foods at lunch will help with you perform better mentally and will keep you from feeling tired. Just be careful not to overeat, Butscher says.

“We all know how at Thanksgiving, we have the sluggishness after we eat,” she says. “Some people feel that way after every meal. I work with patients to help them slow down and know when they're satiated or satisfied. You should leave the meal feeling good.”

She also cautions against distracted eating.

“You want to be mindful while you’re eating,” she says. “Pay attention to what you eat and how much you eat. When you’re looking at a screen or reading a book, it’s sometimes hard to know if you've consumed too much.”

For an optimal lunch that gets you through the afternoon, make sure it consists of:

  • Carbohydrates. “The key is to make sure they’re good wholesome carbohydrates,” she says. Choose whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Protein. “I like plant-based proteins,” Butscher says. These include: nuts, natural peanut butter and nut butters, and tofu. Fish and eggs are good alternatives, too.

“Protein is what helps to sustain the energy you receive from the carbohydrates,” she says. “It increases your metabolism so you burn more energy from the meal.”

Add in starches – for instance, yams or potatoes – and milk and yogurt to round out the meal.

For lunches that will get you through the end of the day, try one of these five options:

Lunch One

  • Spinach salad with a vinegar and oil dressing, topped with walnuts, quinoa and dried cranberry
  • Milk or yogurt

Lunch Two

This one uses up leftovers:

  • 4 ounces of cooked salmon
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
  • Something easily microwaved, such as a vegetable medley of zucchini, broccoli and carrots
  • Apple

Lunch Three

  • 2-3 small tofu tacos
  • Plain yogurt with berries for sweetness and flavoring

Tofu preparation: Pan-sear garlic and onion in a small amount of oil. Mix in the chopped, extra firm tofu. Squeeze some lemon on the mixture to help open up your palate. Add a balsamic vinegar glaze, Old Bay Seasoning or a blackening spice.

Lunch Four

For a quick lunch:

  • 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter spread on a banana
  • A glass of milk

An alternative is:

  • 4 ounce baked chicken breast sandwich
  • Banana
  • Plain yogurt

Lunch Five

  • 1 cup of cooked pasta sprinkled with cheese
  • Salad

“Be careful not to overdo the portion on the pasta,” she says. “A lot of people do.”

If you need a nutrition roadmap, an integrative nutrition consultation can help. For more information on this service, visit University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network online or call 216-285-4070.

Heather Butscher, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at UH Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Butscher or any other health care professional online.

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